Parenting Concerns During the COVID-19 Pandemic
On March 24, 2020, Justice Pazaratz released a decision setting out guidelines as to how to deal with access and custody of children during the COVID-19 crisis.
Justice Pazaratz states that while many people have been told by the government to put their lives “on hold” until this crisis is resolved, children’s lives – and vitally important family relationships – cannot be placed “on hold” indefinitely without risking serious emotional harm and upset. Justice Pazaratz concludes that a parent’s insistence that “children should never leave their primary residence, even to visit their other parent – is inconsistent with a comprehensive analysis of the best interests of the child.”
Justice Pazaratz listed the following criteria when dealing with parenting issues during the COVID-19 crisis:
- A parent bringing a motion must provide specific evidence or examples of behaviour or plans by the other parent which are inconsistent with COVID-19 protocols.
- The responding parent must then provide specific and absolute reassurance that COVID-19 safety measures will be meticulously adhered to – including social distancing; use of disinfectant; compliance with public safety directives; etc.
- Both parents will be required to provide very specific and realistic time-sharing proposals which fully address all COVID-19 considerations in a child-focused manner.
- Judges will likely take judicial notice of the fact that social distancing is now both common-place and accepted.
Justice Pazaratz reiterated during times of limited judicial resources, the Court will be looking for evidence that parents have made good faith efforts to communicate; to show mutual respect; and to come up with creative and realistic proposals which demonstrate both parental insight and COVID-19 awareness.
The bottom line is that parents should not use the COVID-19 crisis as a reason to deny access to the other parent, as the best interest of the child is still the only deciding factor.
** This article is intended only to inform and educate. It is not legal advice. Be sure to contact a lawyer to obtain legal advice on any specific matter.